Monday heralds the beginning of six remaining prime objectives for the balance of the racing year:
a) Nail down the Breeders’ Championship. While this one looks safe and the hat trick is all but “banked,” it’s not in our hands anymore. So we’ll just have to hope that those that have Summerhill horses in their care get them home “smoking.” It’s significant that our earnings (which have already passed R12 million for the season) are approaching 50% up on last year’s record, and we’re ahead in every other category too. Stakes winners, winners, the lot.
b) The Group Conference. This is a serious attempt at annual strategising, and unlike many others we attend, ours is about “doing.” The theme this year is “World Class and Beyond,” and that’s our benchmark for all the component businesses in the group. There are big things happening in each division and their CEO’s have open briefs to make them soar.
The team leaves Monday 11th for Fugitives’ Drift, historic home of our deeply lamented friend, David Rattray, whose widow Nicky, will be hosting us with past Hartford House manager, Karen de Haan.
c) Between now and then, and as part of the “cementation” of our new relationship with the prestigious Hong Kong Breeders’ Club, we’re off to the Equimark Broodmare Sale in Cape Town (Wednesday / Thursday). No peace for the wicked! We’re on the lookout for some fresh matrons.
This relationship came courtesy of an old pal, General Guy Watkins, revered former chief of the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club (as it was), and now a sort of patron of the Breeders Club. We’re obviously shopping for suitable mates for our new Sadler’s Wells horse, Grand Central, and its a measure of our faith in him that we’ve offered to partner the Breeders’Club in the acquisition of these ladies.
d) We have a massive breeding season ahead and the promotion of our stallions includes a big Vodacom July week, culminating in our Stallion Day, the first Sunday of July. Racing’s Biggest Day Out (as the media have dubbed it) is always “capacitized” by 500 pilgrims from around the world, and it’s a tribute to the quality of the horses on the property. This campaign is obviously led by the release of the 20th edition of the Summerhill Sires Brochure, so if you don’t see Filly Hayward for 8 weeks, you’ll know where she is.
e) Just as big a task (and probably bigger) is the preparation of 115 youngsters for the Emperor’s Palace Ready To Run Sale, now firmly entrenched as Bloodstock SA’s second biggest sale (by average). The farm supplies approximately 85% of the candidates, and last November’s entries, which by early April already included three Graded Stakes winners, will be running exclusively for R500 000 on the first Saturday in November. Plans for this year’s entries call for a R1 million race reserved for sales candidates, making this by some distance, the biggest event of its kind in Africa.
f) Included in our “World Class and Beyond” plans, is the development of a “School of Excellence” along the same lines as the Darley Flying Start School, albeit the poor man’s version.
If we’re to remain among the world’s foremost stud farms, education will be the nub of our activities, and we’re hopeful of obtaining Maktoum family support (from those already with us) for what will be counted among racing’s most worthwhile projects. Summerhill will donate the land and supply the teachers and tuition, and we’re intending to make it self-funding within a relatively short while. The nation’s horsemen as a whole will benefit.
We live in great times, don’t we?!
PS: Just this morning, we received confirmation for the formation of Darley South Africa Trust.